A rendering of a restored Hinchliffe Stadium, which will reopen with a capacity of 7,800 — Courtesy: Clark Caton Hinz
By Joshua Burd
A development team has broken ground on a long-awaited plan to revitalize and reopen Paterson’s historic Hinchliffe Stadium, joining a host of public officials and retired baseball stars to mark the start of the $94 million project.
Spearheaded by BAW Development and RPM Development, the plan calls for completely restoring and modernizing the onetime Negro League baseball park, which also served for decades as a venue for other sporting and cultural events. The project also features several ground-up components, including:
- A 12,000-square-foot restaurant and event space that will pay homage to the professional and high school athletic exploits at Hinchliffe Stadium, as well as related racial issues
- A six-story, affordable senior housing building featuring 75 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units that will be built to achieve a platinum rating on the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design scale
- A 5,200-square-foot preschool
- A 314-space structured parking garage
Completion is slated for fall 2022, which would come 90 years after the stadium’s original debut and 25 years after it closed its doors due amid growing disrepair.
“Growing up in Paterson, Hinchliffe Stadium was a part of the fabric of the city — not just for the history it represented, but as the home of so many sporting and cultural events,” said Baye Adofo-Wilson, CEO of BAW Development. “When the opportunity came to restore the ballpark after decades of neglect, we worked hard to craft a business plan that would make this project viable and help invigorate the neighborhood.
“With the assistance of both public and private funding partners, we were able to develop this comprehensive program for the ballpark and adjoining site, bringing sorely needed affordable housing, reviving the ballpark and creating a restaurant and other amenities that establish Hinchliffe as a destination for decades to come.”
Last week’s ceremony drew dignitaries including Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, state Sen. Nellie Pou and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, along with retired Major Leaguers C.C. Sabathia, Willie Randolph and Harold Reynolds. Also on hand were Adofo-Wilson, who serves as majority owner and lead developer of the stadium project, and Joe Portelli, vice president of development at RPM Development.
“Hinchliffe Stadium is the largest catalytic investment in a generation,” Sayegh said. “By taking one of our most dormant and underutilized sites with deep historic significance, we are laying the foundation for city-wide reinvestment and opportunity. We are witnessing a one-in-a-lifetime transformation and I’m proud of our public-private partners who have helped usher in this complex project.”
Built in 1932, with professional baseball still segregated, Hinchliffe Stadium was once home to the New York Black Yankees and New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues. The ballpark is most often associated with Paterson native Larry Doby, who played high school sports at Hinchliffe in the 1930s, played in the park while in the Negro Leagues and broke the American League’s color barrier in 1947 before ultimately being elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. The venue also hosted a range of athletic and cultural events over several decades, including high school sports as well as motorcar racing, boxing tournaments and concerts, before falling into disrepair in the late 1990s.
The project by BAW and RPM will make the facility ADA-compliant and improve the field, restrooms, lighting, scoreboard and seating areas a capacity of 7,800. It is moving forward thanks in large part to public financing tools and subsidies, including a $67 million tax credit under the state’s Economic Redevelopment and Growth program.
Tim Sullivan, CEO of the state Economic Development Authority, said the redevelopment “will have a significant impact in Paterson and provide an economic boost for New Jersey as we begin our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“In addition to paying homage to the achievements of Black baseball legends, this project will create jobs, provide much-needed affordable housing for seniors, and bring valuable community assets to Paterson,” Sullivan said. “This groundbreaking honors this historic landmark and reminds us all that New Jersey values diversity and is committed to supporting and celebrating the greatness of people from all backgrounds. The NJEDA team and I look forward to working with Mayor Sayegh to see this through to completion.”
The redevelopment will preserve historic elements of Hinchliffe Stadium such as its Art Deco exterior and its amphitheater-style, horseshoe-shaped interior that can accommodate baseball, football, soccer, track and lacrosse as well as concerts and other cultural events, the news release said. When construction is complete, it will become John F. Kennedy High School’s home field for several sports and will serve the broader community for concerts, festivals, sports camps and other semipro and professional sporting events.
RPM, for its part, said the project will provide another opportunity for it to build “high-quality affordable housing that will allow residents to thrive.”
“This project demonstrates how government and business entities can work together to achieve this goal,” Portelli said. “For years, the neighborhood surrounding Hinchliffe — much like the ballpark itself — has been underutilized and in sore need of additional investment and development to help reach its full potential. We’re thankful to all our public and private partners, and we look forward to breathing new life into the neighborhood through this visionary mixed-use development.”